Spread across 75 hectares (185 acres), Montréal’s Botanical Garden is a fragrant oasis all year round. Ten large exhibition greenhouses each have a theme: One houses orchids; another has tropical food and spice plants, including coffee, cinnamon, and ginger; another features rainforest flora. In a special exhibit each spring, live butterflies flutter among the nectar-bearing plants, occasionally landing on visitors. In September, visitors can watch monarch butterflies being tagged and released for their annual migration to Mexico.
Outdoors, spring is when things really kick in: lilacs in May, lilies in June, and roses from mid-June until the first frost. From early September to the first few days of November in 2014, the garden hosted the return of the popular Gardens of Light Chinese Lantern Festival, with magical colored lanterns lighting the paths; check the calendar to see if this program is on the 2015 schedule. Otherwise, just take in the Chinese Garden, a joint project of Montréal and Shanghai, which evokes the 14th- to 17th-century era of the Ming Dynasty and was built according to the landscape principles of yin and yang. It incorporates pavilions, inner courtyards, ponds, and plants indigenous to China. As well, a serene Japanese Garden fills 2.5 hectares (6.25 acres) and has a stone garden, a tea garden used for tea ceremonies, and a stunning bonsai collection with miniature trees as old as 350 years. The grounds are also home to the Insectarium.